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Coug ball raises money around Valley and now the state

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SNOQUALMIE VALLEY - It's rare for a football to find much use beyond the gridiron, but one special ball has brought more smiles than any game won with a big play in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter; all without ever been carried by a football player.

That ball, a Washington State Cougar decal ball that was signed by the 2003 team, is making its way around the state raising money for various nonprofit organizations. What started out as a simple auction prize in the Valley has so far raised more than $2,000 for community groups.

For Cougar fans, the ball signifies a big win at the 2003 Holiday Bowl. The Cougs were ranked No. 14 and were underdogs against the No. 5 University of Texas Longhorns. The game was a thriller and the Cougars were triumphant with a 28-20 score.

It was acquired by Ross Hallowell, a member of Moose Lodge No. 1666 in North Bend. Hallowell, who runs a dog training business called North Bend Retriever Kennel, had procured a hunting dog for an employee of Washington State University. The employee was so impressed with his new dog that he asked Hallowell to call him any time for a favor. Hallowell needed auction items for a Moose fundraiser and the WSU employee supplied him with his first signed football and a helmet signed by former coach Mark Price.

Hallowell went back to the employee who promised to top the previous donations. He came back with the football signed by the 2003 team and Hallowell knew it would be coveted.

"That [Holiday Bowl] was a big game," he said.

The ball was originally offered at a drawing earlier this year held by the Moose to raise money for the Sno-Valley Junior Football Wildcats and renovations to the lodge's building. About $890 was raised.

As opposed to keeping the souvenir at home to show off, the person who won the ball passed it on to be auctioned off by the Ladies Auxiliary of the Sno-Valley Eagles. The Sno-Valley Eagles used money from its auction ($1,220) to raise funds for the Jim and Frances North Scholarship fund, started in honor of the prolific Valley couple who also helped found the Sno-Valley Eagles.

Once again, the ball found no resting place on a mantel or desk. The ball was taken to Eastern Washington (Medical Lake), where it will be auctioned or raffled off to raise money for The Heuga Center, a Colorado-based organization that helps those suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) keep exercising so they can stay in good health.

The ball should get a good response in Eastern Washington because of its close proximity to Cougar country in Pullman. Also, the ball's current owner, Evalyn Byers, said Washington has a high rate of MS.

* Anyone wishing to make a donation to the Jim and Frances North Scholarship funds may do so by sending a check to: Eagles Auxiliary No. 3529, P.O. Box 528, Snoqualmie, WA, 98065.

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